Fylde MP Mark Menzies is ‘appalled’ at the extent of the cuts to libraries Lancashire County Council is threatening across Fylde - and claims party politics have played a part in the decision by the Labour-run authority.
“There can be no doubt that the Labour Party has sought to protect areas where it receives more support,” he said.
“In Preston, it seems the only library to be facing closure is Fulwood Library, with eight out of nine facilities avoiding the cull.
“Until now, I have avoided accusations of political bias but the County Council has continually attempted to politicise this issue, blaming closures wholly on Government cuts.
“Meanwhile, a great many other councils, including the Labour-led authority in Blackpool, have managed to avoid closing libraries so this comes down to Lancashire County Council’s priorities.
“I have already spoken to the Secretary of State for Local Government about this issue and he has agreed to go away and look at the methodology the council has used to make these decisions.”
But Mr Menzies’ claims were rebuffed by County Council leader Jennifer Mein, who said: “I would very much welcome the Secretary of State looking at our methodology because we’ve used some very hard hitting analysis to arrive at these proposals.
“The emphasis is it should be on service not buildings. We are trying to consolidate our number of buildings so we can continue to deliver the services to a good standard.”
Stressing the proposals would go out to consultation, she said data on demographics and indices of deprivation had contributed to decisions, adding: “The actual population of Preston is a great deal bigger than the population of Fylde and the needs are different.”
She added that although Kirkham library building was proposed for closure, the library service would relocate to the Milbanke building across the road.
Mr Menzies has attended a number of recent events in support of libraries and has written repeatedly to County Hall appealing for a what he terms a reasoned approach to the issue.
He added: “I have tried to do all I can to make it clear to the County Council how important libraries are to the people of Fylde.
“I have also encouraged local people to speak up for their libraries and take part in the consultation process so the County Council can make a decision knowing the strength of feeling in support of Fylde’s libraries.
“So to close four out of five libraries locally – and not leave us with a single facility in rural Fylde – is appalling and leads me to believe that this has been a fait accompli from the start.
“I know that campaigners around Fylde are putting together a petition, which I have offered to commend to Parliament, and I would encourage others to do the same.
“A second consultation is due to take place over the next few weeks and I would say to people that now is the time to fight to keep their libraries.”